Analytic languages and their function. (4)

A. Katz amnfn at
Sun May 28 22:02:23 UTC 2006

Steve Long wrote:

>I think this is where the disagreement is.  There's good reason to
>believe that those Turkish speakers starting out with inflectional
>morphology are not doing anything different from analytic speakers starting
>out with non-inflected words.  The grammatical implications have for the most
> part not entered into either of their speeches.  Many researchers have tried
>hard to find grammar invery early development, but I believe that a
>disciplined objective review will show that it is just not there.

Conversely, I'm not sure that beginning English speakers at the one word
stage are actually using nouns when they say things like "dog" or "ball"
or "Mommy". I don't think the category noun can have any significance if
there isn't another category to contrast it with.

>I'm not sure what theory of mind means, but it is true that grammar more
>accurately maps identities, processes and relationships between things in
>time and space.  But just because early languages did not have much
>grammar did notmean they had not developed into distinctively human

Theory of Mind refers to an individual's awareness of the minds of others,
their context, desires, beliefs and motivations. Humans are known for
their unusually well-developed theory of mind, but not all humans are
equally endowed with this ability. Autistics are said to have
considerable deficits in theory of mind, regardless of how high their IQ may be
in other areas. Deficits in theory of mind make language acquisition very
difficult, because mind-reading is a good way to jump start first language
learning. However, later in life, autistics often catch up in language
ability, despite lingering deficits in theory of mind.

Shifting between 1st and second person is something that come naturally to
speakers with a normal theory of mind. If you don't have TOM, it's much
harder to guess when to use first and when to use second person.

>Hmmm.  My dog knows the difference between yes and no very well.
>Generalized (abstracted) across a whole slew of situations.  Which only
>reinforces the idea that the real functions of language may be more
>centered in the listener than the speaker.

Really? Does your dog answer yes/no questions? I have yet to meet a dog
who can.

When I ask my dog if she wants to go out, it's clear that she understands
the question. But if she doesn't want to go out, she never gives any
signal to say so. She just stands there glumly and won't follow me to the
door. If she wants to go out, she wags her tail excitedly and goes to the
door before I do.

That is not answering "yes" and "no." That is involuntarily showing her
emotional states using body language. She has no volitional control over
that wagging tail.

There is nothing to keep her from nodding her head "yes" or shaking it
"no," as she sees me doing. But she never does.

In what context has your dog used "yes" and "no"?

>What was early human language like?  Well, we can be pretty certain that
>a full-blown Latin grammar was not inherited from our "pre-human"
>ancestors. Then how much grammar did the earliest human speech have?  I
>see no reason to think it had anymore than the simplest, least
>grammatical pidgin.  Any other conclusion calls for a deus ex machina
>that somehow implanted grammar full-blown inthe form of a Chomskayan language
> mechanism, which I believe violates the
>naturalistic assumption of science.

No, there are other conclusions that do not require us to adopt Chomskyan
mechanisms or violate the naturalistic assumptions of science.

The idea of individual words carrying meaning without a system of
contrasts is not naturalistic. When you imagine people talking in nouns,
verbs and prepositions, and you think of them building up their
grammatical system gradually, one word at a time, that is not
naturalistic. How long do you imagine our primitive ancestors spent at the
one word -- or rather, one morpheme stage? How long a period from the use
of the "first" word to the discovery of the second word? There is a
critical mass required before a language can be useful. A one word
language serves no function, and nobody will wait around to learn the
second word.

Our ancestors, before they were truly human, already had a communication
system much like that of present-day primates. Do you think they would
discard it for something whose communicative function was much weaker, in
the hopes of one day working their way up to modern language?


Dr. Aya Katz, Inverted-A, Inc, P.O. Box 267, Licking, MO
65542 USA
(417) 457-6652 (573) 247-0055

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